Let's Talk about Ferguson
At nine o'clock last night I stopped what I was doing to search the web for an update on the Ferguson Trial because I knew that the grand jury was expected to release it's decision at that time. I don't know how many of you knew what was happening or stopped to check on the proceedings, but this situation has effected so many areas of my heart that I didn't want to miss any details.
To our Dayton Chi Alpha crew: Our open hearts are what lead to open minds. Our rally cry in Connexion these last few weeks has been "Kingdom Come" and "He Ain't Done Yet". I hope you can see how these statements are resoundingly true when we address the issues of reconciliation and diversity. Our primary campus is only 10% African American. That might make it easier for us to feel unaffected or unconnected to things like Ferguson. But our brothers and sisters in more diverse communities (UCXA for example) are leading the way in the journey towards diversity. As a result, it's no longer okay for us to remain quiet and hope that someone else with speak up. Our brothers and sisters matter. The whole Kingdom matters. I invite you to use this space as a safe place to process through your thoughts and feelings. There won't be any "dumb" questions or ignorant statements. I just ask, that as you comment, you do so out of love and a desire to learn. Please refrain from politically charged or hate based comments. Here we go...
It has only been in the last few years that God has been opening my heart to the reality that racism is happening all around me. The truth is, it's not happening to me, so I don't always see it. Not even that - I rarely see it. In the past I might have gone days...weeks... or months without thinking about it once. And honestly, that's the result of being white.
It's hard for me to type that.
Let me say it again for good measure. I tend to be ignorant to racism because I am white.
What has changed in my life? I started listening. Instead of hiding behind my own race, I have made friends with people who are seeing the world from a different perspective. I opened my heart and my mind to them. (Remember SALT last year??) My desire to love people developed into a desire to understand the things that are EXTREMELY hard for me to relate to. This is the starting point for all of us. We must listen.
"The issue of race remains contentious in our nation and in our neighborhoods, and many white evangelicals remain confused as to how they should respond." (Christianity Today)
Are you aware of the issue of race in our nation? Did you know that racial profiling is still happening?
"If the shooting of Michael Brown were an isolated incident, then the protests would make no sense. But it is not. It points to a much larger, national issue...So, even if white Americans can point to the epidemic of black-on-black crime as well as to white youths being killed by blacks or to white police being killed by blacks, those statistics will not remove the deep convictions of many African-Americans who know by experience that they are more likely to be racially profiled and suspected by police than white Americans.
A white reader might say, "But that's because of all the crime in black neighborhoods. What do you expect police to do?
A black reader would respond, "We're all for justice, but you don't have the slightest clue of what we have had to put up with just because we are black."
But it does mean that, rather than focusing on Ferguson, we must look at the larger national issues." (Charisma News)
I bring this up because of my starting point. I understand that you might not know that race is still a national issue. You might have a biased view of our culture like I did.
But you don't have to stay there. If we truly want to see what will happen when "The Kingdom Comes to a City", let me tell you, it involves every tribe, language, people and nation (Rev. 5:9). And this can't start with foreign missions. It has to start in our Jerusalem. Jesus laid out the order for us...and it starts right here at home.
"A lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism. It’s not so much that they have nothing to say but rather they don’t see an opportunity being opened up for them to say something or to do something that matters. Or they might not be sure what to say or how to do it.
They might have a hard time seeing a role for themselves in the fight against racism because they aren’t racist, they don’t feel that racism affects them or their loved ones personally, they worry that talking about race and differences between cultures might make things worse, or they think they rarely see overt racism at play in their everyday lives." (Quartz)
My white friends, can you relate to these statements? If you can, this is the boat I have sat in for a long time. We must be proactive and break the silence. My African American friends, can you help us find our voice?
George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, U.S.A., said, “As I have watched the unfolding events in Ferguson, Missouri, my mind has continually turned to two scriptures. The first is 2 Corinthians 5:19: ‘God has committed to us the message of reconciliation.’ (CHI ALPHA!! What is our flagship verse?! The very next one - 2 Cor 5:20 "Be reconciled!!") Ferguson is divided, and so is our nation. Though we have made great strides in race relations since the Civil Rights Era, there is still work to be done, and churches need to take the lead in doing it, because that is what Christ has commissioned us to do.
The second scripture is James 1:19-20: 'Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.’ If 2 Corinthians 5 tells us the what, James 1 tells us the how. Reconciliation is slow work. It requires listening to others more than self-expression. And it means exchanging unrighteous anger for righteous action. My hope for the Assemblies of God is that we, mindful of our own checkered history when it comes to race, will humbly and persistently work to build communities where,’ as Frank Bartleman said of the Azusa Street Revival, the color line was washed away in the blood [of Jesus Christ].’" (Vital Magazine)
Another person put it this way:
"With all respect to secular government and politics and media and society, I believe that followers of Jesus must lead the way in bringing reconciliation and redemption. This is the very essence of the gospel.
We must be the peacemakers.
We must be the bridge builders.
We must be the one who transcend ethnicity and color, building instead on our unity in the Lord, where there is neither male nor female and neither black nor white.
It is an arduous task, but it must be done.
And so rather than inflaming and inciting, we must honor, respect, listen, learn, speak, and act—working together for justice for all." (Charisma News)
Students, I don't claim to have all the answers. But I know truth when I hear it. Scripture is truth and it is relevant to issues like Ferguson, like Cleveland, like Beavercreek. Racism is untouched by so many influential voices. YOU are the future - of both the church and our nation. What will you do? Will you be a bridge builder or...for lack of flowery language...keep your head turned?
What do I think about the verdict of the Grand Jury? I don't know. I wasn't there and don't know what the jury went through these last few months. But my brother in law is on the ground over there with the National Guard. I know I struggle with being fearful for the safety of him and his friends. Not one of them asked to be there during this Thanksgiving week when they could be with their families. Could the rioting get close to the his home, wife and one-year-old daughter? That question makes the rioting hit home for me.
I also understand that power is really hard to handle. There might be a lot of well intentioned law enforcement officers out there that struggle to handle power appropriately. You might too if put in the same situations. That's why I am intrigued by efforts to require more accountibility (like body cams) for police officers. I wonder what will happen with that.
But more than anything, we are Christ Ambassadors (XA). We must strive to authentically represent the savior of the WORLD in ever situation, context and crisis. Start listening! Acknowledge that injustice exists in the USA, Ohio and even Dayton. From there, I believe that beautiful conversations between brothers and sisters will be birthed that will help us all understand our fears and emotions on a deeper level.
In closing, I'd like to share the thoughts of Tj Watson, one of our UCXA brothers.
"I’m tired of seeing Christians...from all colors attacking one another on this issue. Yes, there are a lot of feelings that are high on both sides, and there are points on both sides, that are right and logical; but THE problem behind this issue is the fact that, Satan is using this to his advantage.
God is grieved, because as a father, he hates division among his sons and daughters on any issue, but particularly on issues that involve different ethnicities.
Now more than ever, as fellow believers, we need to lay down our fleshly weaponry to tear down our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and instead, grieve for the one life lost, learn from one another and most importantly, rely on God to use his Godly justice to rectify this situation.
As Herman Boone from “Remember the Titans” once said “If we don’t come together right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed”. If we want to bring people to Christ, then instead of tearing each other, we must build each other up, we must learn from one another, and most importantly, realize the true importance of family. Because God created us to live life together, and if we decide to allow this discussion to tear us apart, then Satan’s goal will be accomplished, and I for one am not willing to let my family be torn apart.
Will you have the same mindset?"
If you made it to the end, I love you ;)
*Any of the articles I sited above are a great additional read. Please click on the links and continue your research!
It's been so great to see students get excited about praying. They've been making time in their life to knock on the door of heaven, seek Him, and ask God to do powerful things.
The book of Daniel is an example of a man doing something very similar. He knew he was in hostile territory and under a pagan King. He sought God regularly, publically, privately, openly and vulnerably. He prayed so much that wisemen of other religions looked up to him.
Daniel, no doubt, prayed for miracles, just like many students are now. When we pray for miracles, we should expect attention. Daniel got all sorts of attention - attention from God, attention from kings, attention from peers and even the normal man. We should expect attention as well.
I'm an NOT saying we should seek attention, but if we seek miracles, we should expect attention.
What type of attention? I can't say exactly. But it will probably be stretching, eye-opening, surprising or downright crazy.
What type of attention will God allow you to have? What type of kings will you speak in front of? What type of wisemen will seek your advice? What position or platform will God give you? God knows, even if you don't.
Let's continue to seek miracles.
Let's continue to expect attention.
Let's continue to ask God to teach us to respond to that future attention in a wonderful way. A way that lifts Him high, and makes Him proud.
Let's be ready, in season and out.